You’ve got to love the bakers! Up and out before the rest of the bunch, they sacrificed precious sleep to get their yeast rolls rising. The remainder of us savory cooks arrived at Liberty’s Kitchen at 9am to find the National Guard putting up the evening’s tents and Chef Reggie (and his right-hand man Hardy), cracking on with the evening’s mise en place.
We quickly found our respective tasks and settled in. Knives were sharpened, bandanas pulled on and workspace claimed. Twelve cooks take up a lot of space but everyone managed to find a little corner to call their own in the tiny cafe; a couple of the clever cooks even made a makeshift outdoor kitchen using butane burners, a frydaddy and a couple old metal cabinets.
Meanwhile, any idle hands were put to work turning a functioning parking lot into a celebratory space with a sparkle. A few votive candles, sunflowers and vintage-looking string lights can really go a long way. Pretty soon a once-dusty parking lot looked like a real space for a party. And what a party it was!
At 7pm sharp the guests started pouring in. The residents came out to support the mission of Liberty’s Kitchen not only with their hearts but with their wallets. In return, they were treated to amazing music (Germaine Basil), superb cocktails (NOLA Brown and Blonde Ales) and stellar food. The tasting menu resulted from a beautiful synergy between Chef Reggie and the entire CulinaryCorps team, and included:
- Redfish Goujonette on Puree of Califlower
- Pork Tenderloin Tournedos with Corn Pudding and Gingersnap Gravy
- Andouille Sausage with Sweet and Sour Cabbage
- Shrimp Remoulade
- Pulled Pork on Sweet Potato Biscuits
- Pasta Jambalaya Orzo with Smoked Chicken
- Sweet Corn Cake Topped with Fried Quail Eggs, Greens and Bacon
- Crawfish Risotto
- Pissaladiere with Fig Olive Tapenade
- Bayou Brownie with Caramelized Banana and Pepper Praline Sauce
- Strawberry Po’Boys with Chocolate and Vanilla Custard
By 7:20pm, over 130 people had arrived. The front of the house volunteers failed to show so a few CulinaryCorps cooks put on their best game faces, grabbed a tray and started passing appetizers. The others either manned their “action station” cooking small bites for a hovering crowd or staffed the back kitchen to replenish trays, deep fry fish and flash pork tenderloins in the oven.
The night was like a dream. Smiling faces, sincere thanks, feel good music, and seconds, thirds, fourths and beyond on all the menu items. The crowd managed to make good on all the food we made and we had just enough to nosh while catching the last couple of tunes by the band.
As the night came to a joyful close, Chef Reggie relayed a conversation that he had with Keisha, their coffee bar manager. He said to her that he was “so impressed with these CulinaryCorps cooks, they came in just like warriors”. And she replied, “not just like warriors, like Spartans.” We came, we saw, we cooked.
Best wishes for a successful grand opening Liberty’s Kitchen! We’re behind you every step of the way.